These Are The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Six Essential Original Series Episodes
On August 28, 1993, FOX premiered a new show geared towards children. It took Japanese superhero footage and added in American teenagers to teach children about pollution, bullying, and other important issues. That show was Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Nearly twenty five years later, the show is still on the air. The 'Mighty Morphin' might have been dropped after season three, but Power Rangers is still chugging along, now on Nickelodeon.
The key factor in how Power Rangers has lasted so long seems to be how it constantly reinvents itself. Following the first three seasons, the show decided to change the costumes and bad guys every season. It drew that inspiration, as well as much of the fighting footage, from the Super Sentai series that are popular in Japan. After the sixth season, Power Rangers in Space, the cast began switching out every season. There would still be some form of continuity, but it was like a total reboot each season. This allowed for a new bunch of children to be introduced to the show. It let each generation have their own form of the Power Rangers to grow up on.
But we’re here to talk about where the show began. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers started it all. The children who watched its original airing, myself included, are now in their 20s and 30s. Their tastes have changed. That never stops Hollywood from cashing in on nostalgia, though. A modern reboot of the initial season of the show has just been released, bringing back the original five Power Rangers: Jason, Zack, Billy, Kimberly, and Trini. It will team them up with their original allies: Zordon and Alpha 5. They will be pitted against their original foe: Rita Repulsa. The big difference is that it is made for a 2017 movie audience.
Like I said, nostalgia is the main reason that Power Rangers was made is being released in 2017. To understand the nostalgia, we’re going to go on a trip through early episodes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The conflict and the characters were just as important as the lessons and fighting. They were the two aspects that got children invested in the show, and keep their grown selves thinking fondly about it. Six episodes are going to be discussed. The first episode, because it sets up the overall conflict, and one episode that highlights each of the five Power Rangers. Where better to start than the beginning, though.
Season 1, Episode 1 - "Day of the Dumpster"
The pilot episode of any television show is meant to set up the concept. In Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, that concept is the battle between good and evil. More specifically, it is the battle between evil witch Rita Repulsa, and head-in-an-interdimensional-tube Zordon.
Rita was freed from her space dumpster on the moon in the first scene of the show and vowed to destroy Earth for no reason other than it was the closest planet. She was joined by her underlings Goldar, Squatt, Baboo, and Finnster. They went to a castle that was on the moon and plotted their first of many plans to destroy Earth. The most notable thing about Rita is her personality. She is always angry. Whether winning or losing a battle, her voice never goes below a loud, shrieking volume. She abuses her henchmen because children need the evil to be pure evil. Subtlety might fly over their heads. She is the bad guy that would take the show through its first season.
Zordon came into the episode about halfway through, along with his robot sidekick Alpha 5. The two of them ran a Command Centre on Earth where they protected the planet from all evil. Now that Rita Repulsa was free, they needed to bring a new team in to fight off her evil. To quote Zordon, he was looking for “five overbearing and overemotional humans.” Alpha 5 knew that meant five teenagers and gathered Jason, Billy, Zack, Kimberly, and Trini from the Angel Grove Youth Center, a place where they would frequently hang out.
All of the pieces came together in the first episode, even if it was a little messy. It was about setting up the conflict and didn’t spend too much time building the characters. The dynamic of the Power Rangers team was set up, but the characters were basic stereotypes. Later episodes helped build out the characters, for the most part. Really, they helped everyone except Trini, who will come up later. First, let’s talk about Billy.
Season 1, Episode 15 - "Dark Warrior"
Fifteen episodes into the first season, Billy was given a solid character episode. This was still early in the show and the characters had yet to grow out of their stereotypes. Billy was still the nerd, and was played as the nerd. This episode added the slightest amount of depth, and it was something that would mean a lot going forward.
Being the nerd character of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Billy suffered from bullying. Bulk and Skull, two main characters who served as the comic relief and high school antagonists of the main characters, stole Billy’s money and shoved him in a recycling bin. Billy rejoined Jason’s martial arts class to learn how to defend himself from bullies, eventually earning himself a yellow belt. He was also given a chance to prove himself when the group saved Trini’s uncle Howard from a monster and Billy diffused a bomb. It was Billy learning that he had it in himself to help other people. He was more than just the smart guy.
This was one of the earliest episodes to try and break the characters out of their stereotypical mould, even if only a little bit. Billy was given a flaw. He didn’t have confidence in his heroic abilities. It would be another two episodes before the show came into its own, but this was a decent step in the right direction of making the characters into memorable heroes instead of teenage stereotypes.
Season 1, Episode 31 - "Calamity Kimberly"
The best way to learn about a character is to throw obstacles at them. That’s a key to storytelling. This episode showed Kimberly having a terrible day where nothing went right for her. Most of these obstacles were the things that made Kimberly who she was. She was the valley girl, who cared about her appearance and reputation. Even though she had the friends she had, which was the most inclusive group of people possible, she still cared most about how she presented herself.
That side of the character was shown through how she reacted to her problems. Her hair wouldn’t straighten, her clothes had holes in them, and she had to walk to school in the rain with a broken umbrella. Each of these things took away from her outward appearance and made her sad. There was only one way for her to cheer up, and that thing was the other enlightening character moment.
Throughout her time on the show, Kimberly had an on again, off again relationship with Tommy, the Green Ranger. It depended on whether or not Tommy was in the show at the time. He had a history of disappearing for long periods of time in the first and early second seasons. When Kimberly was feeling down during the events of Calamity Kimberly, she and Tommy went for a walk. Their conversation showed their relationship. That and the looks were Kimberly in a nutshell, for the first bit of the show. She was the more fleshed out of the two female leads.
Season 1, Episode 48 - "Plague of the Mantis"
Trini was never given any real character traits. She was always the best friend to either Kimberly or Billy, depending on what the episode called for. When she was given her own storylines, they always focused around other characters. Her earliest character-focused episode was the second episode, where she was afraid of heights. Yet that story was as much about Billy as her. When they finally did give her some depth, with a potential love interest named Richie, she disappeared from the show. Character was never something they really gave to Trini.
That made it difficult to find an episode that would give a good idea of who the character was. "Plague of the Mantis" fit because it was an episode about Trini’s experiences, and it helped show that she was an integral part of the team. She was being trained in a new form of martial arts called Mantis Kung Fu. She was also pitted against a mantis monster. It was through trying to fight the monster alone with her new style that Trini discovered that teamwork was the most important thing to fighting evil. Her major episode of self-discovery was an episode that showed how she was a part of the team and shouldn’t be on her own, how fitting for a character who never blossomed.
Season 1, Episode 60 - "An Oyster Stew"
The role of the best friend of the main character must be carefully written. They need to have storylines to be fully functioning characters, but they can’t be too exciting or else they will be more interesting than the primary character. With Jason as the main character of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Zack had to fill the role of best friend until Tommy came into the show. Even then, the two characters split that role because Tommy would keep disappearing during the first season and a half.
One way that the show gave Zack depth was to focus on his crush on a high school girl named Angela. She would pop up once in awhile and he would try and start a relationship only to have his duty as a Power Ranger get in the way. In "An Oyster Stew", Zack took Angela on a birthday date at an outdoor French café. Tommy and Kimberly tagged along. Zack gave her a pair of pearl earrings that froze everyone except for Zack and Tommy, leaving them to save the day.
What this episode did for Zack was show his sweeter side and show that he could be relied on when times were tough. With most of the Power Rangers team out of commission, he made it his responsibility to free them and defeat the monster. It was this loyalty that was a big part of Zack’s personality. He would do whatever he had to, even if it came at the loss of his own relationship dreams. To make it up to Angela, he sang in front of everyone at the Youth Center. That showed his romantic side. He was romantic to the girl he had a crush on, and he was loyal to his friends and monster fighting team. He was a good second for Jason.
Season 2, Episode 14 - "Missing Green"
The leader of the Power Rangers team was Jason, who wore the red suit. He took the team into battle and led them to victory over Rita Repulsa and her monsters time and time again. As the leader, he felt responsible for his friends who were also risking their lives to save the world. He watched their backs to make sure that nothing bad happened to them. Sometimes it led to tough decisions like when he sacrificed Tommy’s Green Ranger powers in order to save Angel Grove and the rest of his team from another monster.
"Missing Green" showed how much the responsibility meant to Jason. The loss of Tommy as a Power Ranger was taking a toll on Jason. He was unable to do well at his martial arts practice. He was training for a tournament, but his regret was getting in his head and causing him to make mistakes. The responsibility would be put on his shoulders once again as Lord Zedd (the second season’s villain) kidnapped the remaining Power Rangers and began weakening their powers. Jason had to save them before losing them to the same fate as Tommy.
The episode showed that Jason would do anything to keep the team safe. He was a formidable fighter on his own who could take Goldar in one-on-one combat. It was all about helping his friends and leading them to take down another monster. He was the captain of the team, giving his team the morale boost they needed when things looked grim. Jason could pull his team out of a dire situation and lead them to victory.
As a whole, the original team of Power Rangers had a character for every child to latch onto. There was the heroic leader, his loyal friend, the smart guy, the pretty girl, and the everygirl. Each member had an important role on the team, even if some got more character depth than others. The first season and a half were not great at character building. It would be the later seasons that figured out how to work proper backstories into the characters instead of one-off backstories based solely on the monster of the episode.
Yet everyone always returns to the original team. They were the first team. They paved the way for a franchise that would last over twenty years. Three of the members might have only lasted a season and a half, yet they were the characters who got people around my age interested in the show. They were the characters who taught us important things like teamwork, loyalty, and keeping the environment clean. Jason, Zack, Billy, Kimberly, and Trini were an integral part of the childhoods of anyone who watched the early Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. They were heroes that you could look up to and aspire to be since they were all good people.
The new movie knows that the people who watched the show then are attached to those characters. That’s why the five Power Rangers in the reboot are taken from the five original Power Rangers. The characters might feel different. They might have more depth. But they’re still the characters that we know and love. They’re the characters who got us invested in the show. They are the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.